Age of Enlightenment

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Age of Enlightenment

the period of intellectual ferment leading up to the French Revolution, which was distinguished by a fundamental questioning of traditional modes of thought and social organization, and sought to replace these with an exclusive reliance on human reason in determining social practices. Many thinkers and philosophers were associated with these developments, amongst them Voltaire (1694-1778), MONTESQUIEU, Holbach (1723-89), Helvétius (1715-71), Diderot (1713-84) and ROUSSEAU. Nor was the movement merely confined to France; it also embraced numerous other thinkers elsewhere, including members of the so-called SCOTTISH ENLIGHTENMENT, such as Adam FERGUSON and John MILLAR, whose work was especially sociological. Despite a common accord on the importance of reason in human affairs, major differences of view existed between thinkers: Voltaire popularized English liberal doctrines of NATURAL RIGHTS; Holbach and Helvétius took these doctrines further and argued for UTILITARIANISM and representative government; while Rousseau's concept of the SOCIAL CONTRACT led to holistic conceptions of state and society realized in the French Revolution. In retrospect, much Enlightenment thought is seen as superficial, lacking an adequate empirical research base, and above all overconfident about human PROGRESS and the ultimate triumph of Reason. However, the Enlightenment era signalled a final decisive break between traditional and modern thought, and between traditional and modern forms of social organization. See also COMTE, RATIONALISM, GRAND NARRATIVES.
References in periodicals archive ?
It was, nevertheless, in Berlin that Mendelssohn became acquainted with important figures in the German Enlightenment and where he was able to start participating in German intellectual life at the highest levels.
All breathed the air of the German Enlightenment (especially the work of Kant), early Romanticism, and nationalism.
This study charts the history and development of Western philosophersE ideas on race and racial difference, examining primary source texts of philosophy and natural science written during the period between the Spanish Renaissance and the German Enlightenment.
Turning to the specifically American scene, Howard next visits Anglican views, German Enlightenment interpretations, and the concern over Catholicism in the early years of the modern era.
Part of his contribution in bringing balance to our understanding of the German Enlightenment and German nationalism is resurrecting, clarifying, and interpreting German Catholic writers who had slipped into obscurity.
Gumplowicz was born a Krakow Jew to an upwardly mobile family in the year when his father, a devotee of the German Enlightenment and its Jewish offshoot Haskalah, obtained citizenship rights--still a rarity in Austrian-occupied Krakow.
Through Kraft, Popper was introduced to the thought of Leonard Nelson (1882-1927) and Jakob Fries (1773-1843) as well as a tradition of critical rationalism which Popper would continue both in his methodological orientation as well as through his late German Enlightenment intellectual values.
Lessing's German Enlightenment classic follows a Jewish merchant whose racial and religious tolerance triumphs over the volatility of Jerusalem during the Third Crusade.
His book consists of five cote chapters on the development of universities in Germany, the earliest Russian students to study there, shifts in attendance in the 18th century, the "golden age" of study abroad between 1760 and 1780, and the development of an ideal of scholarship drawn from the German Enlightenment university.
As Kahn claims: "The profile that emerges is of a writer who is a man of his age, immersed in the European literature of his time, from journalism and political theory to fiction and poetry, with a pronounced interest in the writers of the French and German Enlightenment and a strong interest in classical antiquity, most particularly Epicurian and Stoic philosophy" (7).
His attempt to combine both traditions, the philosophical and the traditional Jewish, made him leave his Jewish home but never let him be a fully accepted philosopher of the German Enlightenment.
An English-language Companion to Lessing's works will be highly appreciated by scholars and students for two reasons: between the early German Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism, Lessing was one of the most original, controversial, and influential figures in German literature and thought; furthermore, he is a complex and versatile author in that he contributed to a whole range of discourses such as philosophy, theology, literary criticism and theory, art theory, and, of course, literature itself (primarily in the area of drama and fable).

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